February 21, 2018 / Layne Hardison

Photo Essay Contest: A Noise Study on an Aircraft Carrier

Editor’s note: AIHA’s IAMIH campaign encourages members to spread awareness about the industrial hygiene profession, share why they love what they do, and inspire others to enter the field. As part of the 2017 IAMIH Leadership Challenge, AIHA held a photo essay contest that asked members to describe the moment when their eyes were opened to the life-changing potential of a career in industrial hygiene. The top three entries were chosen for publication on SynergistNOW.

Here is the entry that was selected as the 2nd runner up in the 2017 IAMIH Photo Essay Contest. Other winning entries will be published in the coming weeks.

Adventures, exploring the unknown, challenges, new experiences—all things that bring excitement. Most people wouldn’t believe such giddy endeavors could exist as part of an everyday job. Through most of my education, I wouldn’t have believed it either. However, as luck—or fate—would have it, during my last year of study, four students were chosen to participate in a noise study aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). One of them was me!

We were flown out over the Pacific Ocean, somewhere off the coast of Coronado, and caught by an arresting wire on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. Even compared to the pictures we had researched, the aircraft carrier was quite a bit larger than I could have comprehended, and as you would expect, it was completely surrounded by water. Being a small cog in an operation including so many incredible people was very humbling. We were surprised when the crew granted us virtually free rein after only a brief introduction and orientation. Eager and wide-eyed, we split up and set out to navigate the eerily similar compressed hallways and tiny ladders in search of targeted, job-specific personnel while armed with our tiny notepads, pens, waivers, and freshly calibrated dosimeters. Despite the odd hours and momentary culture shock, it felt more like a treasure hunt than actual work, and the data we obtained was our treasure. When we weren’t working, the crew onboard treated us like royalty, even escorting us onto the flight deck to observe pilots training for takeoffs and landings with their jets. A few days later, we were the ones being catapulted into the air.

Somewhere between our very abrupt landing and our heart-pounding departure, I knew IH was for me. It hit me during that special flight deck excursion. I was dressed from head to toe in personal protective equipment and standing timidly, exactly as I was placed, surrounded by jets dancing between their landings and takeoffs. Not only was it beautifully choreographed, the movement and precision took my breath away. Everything appeared to be operating as close to perfection as humanly attainable.

In IH, as on that flight deck, a new experience, adventure, or opportunity to explore the unknown is waiting for me just around the ​corner.​

Layne Hardison

Layne Hardison, MS, ASHM, GSP, is industrial hygiene representative at UCOR in Oak Ridge, Tenn.


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